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Siler, N, Kosaka Y, Xie SP, Li XC.  2017.  Tropical ocean contributions to California's surprisingly dry El Nino of 2015/16. Journal of Climate. 30:10067-10079.   10.1175/jcli-d-17-0177.1   AbstractWebsite

The major El Nino of 2015/16 brought significantly less precipitation to California than previous events of comparable strength, much to the disappointment of residents suffering through the state's fourth consecutive year of severe drought. Here, California's weak precipitation in 2015/16 relative to previous major El Nino events is investigated within a 40-member ensemble of atmosphere-only simulations run with historical sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and constant radiative forcing. The simulations reveal significant differences in both California precipitation and the large-scale atmospheric circulation between 2015/16 and previous strong El Nino events, which are similar to (albeit weaker than) the differences found in observations. Principal component analysis indicates that these ensemble-mean differences were likely related to a pattern of tropical SST variability with a strong signal in the Indian Ocean and western Pacific and a weaker signal in the eastern equatorial Pacific and subtropical North Atlantic. This SST pattern was missed by the majority of forecast models, which could partly explain their erroneous predictions of above-average precipitation in California in 2015/16.

Wang, H, Xie SP, Liu QY.  2016.  Comparison of climate response to anthropogenic aerosol versus greenhouse gas forcing: Distinct patterns. Journal of Climate. 29:5175-5188.   10.1175/jcli-d-16-0106.1   AbstractWebsite

Spatial patterns of climate response to changes in anthropogenic aerosols and well-mixed greenhouse gases ( GHGs) are investigated using climate model simulations for the twentieth century. The climate response shows both similarities and differences in spatial pattern between aerosol and GHG runs. Common climate response between aerosol and GHG runs tends to be symmetric about the equator. This work focuses on the distinctive patterns that are unique to the anthropogenic aerosol forcing. The tropospheric cooling induced by anthropogenic aerosols is locally enhanced in the midlatitude Northern Hemisphere with a deep vertical structure around 40 degrees N, anchoring a westerly acceleration in thermal wind balance. The aerosol-induced negative radiative forcing in the Northern Hemisphere requires a cross-equatorial Hadley circulation to compensate interhemispheric energy imbalance in the atmosphere. Associated with a southward shift of the intertropical convergence zone, this interhemispheric asymmetric mode is unique to aerosol forcing and absent in GHG runs. Comparison of key climate response pattern indices indicates that the aerosol forcing dominates the interhemispheric asymmetric climate response in historical all-forcing simulations, as well as regional precipitation change such as the drying trend over the East Asian monsoon region. While GHG forcing dominates global mean surface temperature change, its effect is on par with and often opposes the aerosol effect on precipitation, making it difficult to detect anthropogenic change in rainfall from historical observations.

Li, JB, Xie SP, Cook ER.  2014.  El Nino phases embedded in Asian and North American drought reconstructions. Quaternary Science Reviews. 85:20-34.   10.1016/j.quascirev.2013.11.014   AbstractWebsite

The amplitude of El Nil-ID-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) varies substantially at each phase of its evolution, affecting the timing and patterns of atmospheric teleconnections around the globe. Instrumental records are too short to capture the full behavior of ENSO variability. Here we use the well-validated Monsoon Asia Drought Atlas (MADA) and North America Drought Atlas (NADA) for the past 700 years, and show that tree-ring records from different regions represent tropical sea surface temperature (SST) conditions at various phases of ENSO. Three modes of tree-ring based summer drought variability are found to be correlated with ENSO: summer droughts over the Maritime Continent and Southwest North America (NA), and a dipole mode between Central and South Asia. A lagged correlation analysis is performed to determine the time when precipitation and temperature anomaly imprints on summer droughts as recorded in tree-rings. Drought anomalies in the Maritime Continent and Southwest NA represent ENSO at the developing and peak phases respectively, while those over Central/South Asia are associated with tropical-wide SST anomalies (including the Indian Ocean) at the decay phase of ENSO. Thus proxy records from different regions can provide valuable information on long-term behavior of ENSO at different phases. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.